PTSD – A Day In The Life

A friend sent a link to a YouTube video. Very strong. Obviously written and sung by someone that was there, that did those things.  His words and images, while from a vastly different war in a vastly different place, are far too familiar.  I highly recommend listening and watching the images.  This is reality.  This is where your children are going to make the rich richer and your kids are going to die.

It made me think about my days. I thought maybe some reflections on a generic day might help make clearer the complicated points I’m so desperately trying to share with all these posts. Maybe. It’s your choice.

You’re walking down the street, passing faceless people one after the next.  You don’t look them in the eye, you don’t really acknowledge their existence.  You know just how different you are from them.  How different except for that one, now and then, that is sitting with that thousand yard stare, that stare that shows that they feel as different from everyone as you do, that they are seeing things that no longer exist, people that no longer exist, a life that no longer exists.  That’s another vet.  That’s the stare that is one of the most visible outward symptoms of PTSD.  That’s the look that lets me pick out a vet in any store or mall or group of people I ever come across.

Ever wonder what every day must be like when you live just a few degrees off-center from the world around you?  Even if you live with someone suffering from PTSD, do you ever wonder what they’re seeing when they sit and stare off into the distance, focused on nothing in particular, seeing no one pass and breathing that shallow, nearly whispered breathing?  Believe me, you don’t want to know.  Neither do they but they can’t forget.  It happened 40 years ago or it happen 2 minutes ago.  It’s perfectly fresh in their mind.  The sounds, the footsteps, the screams, the orders, the silence.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself.  We each remember different things, feel the dull ache in different ways and in different parts of our minds and souls.  We each have different people in our lives that we must deal with, smile for, talk to, pretend that everything is just fine, that life is exactly for us as it is for them.  We are each different in everything but one, PTSD ruins the joy of nearly every waking moment we slip through.  That is the common weight we each carry.

I have zero use for any of the childish fantasies that pass for religions. They all teach peace, love, forgiveness, sharing and a respect for all the others of their “god’s” children.  Then they all support whatever war their nationalistic, moronic leaders get them into, they all preach hate for other religions, they all forgive only those who follow the same invisible, unprovable friend somewhere way up in the sky, they are all greedy and selfish and build huge monuments to their “gods” but seldom spend much time and less money helping the orphans or children or single mothers or the aged unless they worship the same invisible friend and they all have a deep, abiding love of killing those who worship the wrong invisible friends or who dare to insult their god and none of the few that maintain some level of sanity ever seems to speak out against the vast, insane majority.  Other than a few Buddhists and a very, very, very, very few Christians, all religions fall squarely within what I’ve described.  I wish there was some “forgiving” god but if it were to forgive me then it would have to forgive all sinners and murderers and then of what use would the concept of all those heavens and of hell be?

Personally, I’m not sure if I’m an atheist or an agnostic.  I can easily see this and all other universes existing simply because they exist.  They needed no “creator”, they just are.  At other times, mostly late at night or when the PTSD is sitting on my soul like a huge, black monster, I WANT there to be a god somewhere that will take that monster away and let me relax, just once in 40 some odd years.  Sleep eventually removes the weight but the nightmares remind me that it is still waiting for me the next morning.  Every night is a welcome relief that life holds one less day and every morning the sad realization that life holds one more day.

I do believe in Karma, or at least some form of it that the human mind could never wrap itself completely around.  I worked with electricity in both of my major careers and read more than a few books by the likes of Stephen Hawking and Science Magazine and the old Omni and the like and what everyone seems absolutely certain about is that the universe is, in general, in a perfect state of balance for a brief period of its enormous history.  Every positive charge has an equal negative charge.

Said another way, every positive influence that is placed into the universe balances any negative influences. Can the universe be slightly, in some miniscule way, unbalanced?  I believe it can and I believe that this unbalanced nature affects every single being within the vicinity of those influences.  So, here on this tiny speck of dust orbiting an extremely average star among billions of other stars in our Milky Way Galaxy among billions and billions of other galaxies strewn about the universe, can one species actually cause an unbalance in the energy, in the Karma, of that tiny space?

I think so.  And I think we have so greatly unbalanced the energy within our tiny allotted space that we are forced to live lives that are vastly inferior to the lives that could and should be ours.  Every child that dies needlessly from war or hunger or disease forces that unbalance to be greater.  Every selfish, greedy animal that walks on two legs that knowingly harms another human being in their constant and unquenchable hunger for more and more forces that unbalance to be greater.  Every preacher that screams out for violence in the name of their god of peace increases that unbalance.  PTSD is simply a symptom of that unnatural unbalance but a symptom that is real and can be seen by anyone who shuts off their TVs and looks into the eyes of their neighbors and friends and families home from whatever unnecessary wars they fought.

Okay, that’s my form of spiritual thought.  Part Buddhist, part science, part anti-Capitalism (the mean spirited, greedy, Republican part), part pure babble.  But it suffices for me vastly better than the jokes that go on within the barriers and walls of what we like to call “Organized Religion” but that I prefer to call “Religion Incorporated”.  And so we’ll move on.

I live alone.  I’ve been married four times and failed at all four.  I won’t waste your time with the details.  Those don’t matter.  What does matter are a few of the common points from through my eyes.  If you’ve read what I’ve offered about the symptoms of PTSD then you’ll recognize a lot of why I did what I did and felt what I felt.

All four marriages had one common theme; I was “rescuing” them from some situation or circumstance.  For all the lives I’ve taken, the pain I’ve caused I’ve just wanted to “rescue” a few lives before I go.  That never works.  Believe me, it never works.  We each live out our quiet, desperate lives and we each create our own circumstances and so the idea that someone can enter our lives on their white horse and in their shiny armor is a fantasy for poorly written books for lonely people everywhere.  I could not rescue them because I had yet to learn to rescue myself.  By the time we each understood that we had lost that connection that brought us together and we were tearing ourselves apart we left the relationship, once as friends, three times as nearly bitter enemies.  They were no closer to being “rescued” by then than they had been when we first met and I was deeper and deeper into the depths of PTSD than I might have been had I just stayed alone, behind these walls, thinking my nonsense thoughts and dreaming my horrific dreams.

Even my friendships have suffered because of my inner battles with PTSD.  I can’t feel close to anyone.  I distrust most people.  I believe that, underneath those smiles and laughter lie the worst of intentions.  Is that true?  Probably not but my crazy soul asks “Why take the chance?”

I despise crowds.  More than two or three people makes me crazy, I just want to leave.  Hell, even when I’m surrounded by other vets at the various VA places I go to for help dealing with this damn PTSD I still try to find a corner somewhere that I can go to and be seen by and see the fewest people.  People flat freak me out.  I especially hate having to be close to those vets and their families that can only talk about two things; their memories from their particular wars and their belief that we should “bomb them fuckers back to the Stone Age”, the second just are mindless little creatures parroting what their vile, lying, drug-addled hero told that morning on the radio.

I don’t start conversations in stores or in lines here or there.  I try not to look at people.  If my son is with me I might talk to him.  I trust him.  He’s learning disabled and the sweetest human being that has ever walked the face of this earth and I trust him.  But no one else.

Want to know one of the main reasons I don’t like to talk to people?  Because the majority are vapid, unthinking, parroting lovers of those people who teach hate or try to show you that exposing themselves in public is worthy of discussion or that fat, orange, drunks are worth one second of wasted breath.  I see these tiny minds and I want to ask them if they know the names of the men and women who died in Iraq or Afghanistan today (As of Tuesday, July 19, 2011, at least 4,473 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The last reported death in Afghanistan was -Spc. Daniel L. Elliott, 21, of Youngsville, N.C., died July 15 in Basra, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device; he was assigned to the 290th Military Police Brigade, 200th Military Police Command, Cary, N.C. – just for conversation’s sake. This does NOT count the tens if not hundreds of thousands of casualties that suffer the physical effects of Bush’s and Obama’s wars nor all those with the invisible wounds like PTSD and TBI.).  I want to ask them if they’ve heard about House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon’s (R-CA) insane idea to give the president unlimited and 100% unconstitutional powers to wage war against any country at any time without even consulting Congress.  I want to ask them if the realize that their bill for the food that they are buying for $50.00 is $50.00 more than Exxon-Mobile paid in taxes in the US, $50.00 more than General Electric paid in taxes in the US, $50.00 more than Bank of America and dozens of other US based corporations paid in taxes in the US in 2010?  I want to ask if they know that Exxon-Mobil even received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings?

That’s what I want to talk about.  But I know the look that I get when I try to make people understand how badly they are being screwed every single day of their lives and the reality that these days will seem halcyon in a few more years.  I know that blank stare I get, the same one that the old winos used to get when I was a kid as they walked along talking and arguing with their imaginary companions.  Facts are my imaginary friends that no one else sees or wants to see.

So I avoid people.  I avoid their insipid, celebrity filled noise that they think passes for “conversation”.  I know how different I am in the first place, living with images that they will never imagine in their darkest dreams, living with the PTSD that is at my sleeve 24/7.  I don’t need to see that look of stupidity and cow-like ignorance that almost always follows my attempts at bringing reality into someone’s useless, daily life.  That grew old forty years ago when people still had a tiny connection to reality.

Now imagine why I simply avoid, constantly, talking to women.  Not too hard to see why I do that, is it?  I’ve read the books and magazines about how to attract women.  I’m not handsome, I know, but I don’t scare the larger pets.  I smile.  I try to appear friendly and likeable.  I try to keep my personal space a safe distance apart.  I try not to use the big, deep, booming voice that a lifetime of drinking Tequila and whiskey and smoking pot and Camels and slowly going more and more deaf gave me.  I try to use a soft, non-threatening voice and manner.  I know that the key to getting a woman to want to spend two seconds with me is to try to quickly uncover some topics we are both interested in.

In fact, if I’m online with a woman and I find myself interested in her I can usually keep the conversation relatively light.  Why can’t I do that in real life, standing at the bus stop or in line at the bank?  Because my computer has what my life desperately needs; delete and backspace buttons.  That, plus they can’t see me in my 24/7 alert stage, watching everyone that passes and looking for clues as to their intent or ability to harm me.  Online I’m just slow moving pixels and words that form one letter at a time and words that can disappear with the stroke of either of those two powerful and wonderful keys.  I can talk about the mundane because it takes seconds between what I say and when she answers.  She can’t see that I’m choosing my words with great care and removing any that I think might cause her to suddenly need to go shower or go to bed or whatever excuse she can come up with to stop the talking with the crazy guy.

When I’m face to face with a woman all those protections are stripped away.  It’s just me, this fat, oldish, not very handsome guy who can’t maintain eye or face to face contact because someone just walked in the door behind me and I need to see if they present a danger.  I try very hard to carry on the light conversation that seems to be a prerequisite to a friendship between a man and a woman.  I try not to act macho and boastful.  I try to be interested in what she says but the second, the instant I hear one word about sparkling vampires or action heroes in movies who would cry like little babies if they were ever faced with a normal day in a real war or the latest “buzz” about fat, orange drunken prostitutes I suddenly want to scream.

I detest crap like that.  It is everywhere I look (on supermarket shelves and billboards and on buses and, well, freaking EVERYWHERE)!  I want to ask them why the hell they spend one second of their precious lives thinking about these halfwits and nonentities?  I want to ask why what is REALLY important in the world isn’t the first things that they want to think about and talk about in hopes of maybe, just maybe, making a REAL connection with another human being that might lead to another REAL connection that might someday lead to a change that makes this miserable, hate-filled, celebrity-focused world into a place worth living in?

So, you can see why I avoid even the initial contact.  You can see why I live within these walls, venturing out to get my food, trying to keep my body from falling apart by going to the VA and trying to work through that intentional maze, why I sit here at the keyboard boring you to tears with my tales of woe and horrors.

When I’m in a public place, I was once told, I look like a cornered animal in an empty room, looking everywhere at once, knowing that there is danger but completely unknowing of which direction it might come from.  That is the look of PTSD after 40 years.  That is the look of the guy that wishes that somebody took a few seconds to try to understand and to just accept me.  I’d love another woman in my life but I know that is probably as reality based as sparkly vampires.  So, I go through my days, writing these poorly written missives, hoping that I can touch a soul or two out there that feels like only they feel this way, only they hurt, only they are so “weak” that they just can’t leave all that crap dead and buried like their friends from back there are.

You aren’t the only ones.  I promise you that.  But don’t let what happened to me happen to you.  It took over 30 years before the VA made even the slightest, halfhearted efforts to begin to acknowledge the hell that the Vietnam vets had been forced to go through for those many decades.  We were ignored and forgotten. We were told to “put it behind” us when it was the first image we saw every morning.  We had a daft, stupid old man tell us it was time to “move on”, that it was “Morning In America”, and then they closed the doors to us and ignored our very existence to the point that statistics as to how many Vietnam vets were committing suicide were no longer even collected by the VA by presidential order.

As poorly funded, as overworked and overwhelmed as most VA facilities and personnel are, there is hope for you men and women home from these useless wars for the wealthy.  It may seem to take forever to finally get the help but ending your life without trying is the weakness, not the pain and memories and sadness themselves.  Those are not weaknesses, those are symptoms of a greater need.  Those are, collectively, PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and you may have to fight to get the help you need but it’s there.  There are resources to help you that I’ve listed in other articles.  Use them.  Tell them you hurt and that you need help.  That is what they exist for.

You will not be judged.  You will not be belittled.  You will receive help.  You deserve it.  You fought for it.  You left a little or a lot of yourself behind for it.  Too many died for it.  Get it now.

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6 Responses to PTSD – A Day In The Life

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    • Julia says:

      Soc Blog Monday April 11, 2011This is a very frightening and diicufflt problem that bears a harrowing similarity to the PTSD cases found in many Vietnam Vets. I worry that we are walking down the same path with the Wars in the Middle East, especially with Afghanistan, for we seem to be fighting an almost invisible enemy and we have no real way of knowing if it s been defeated. But regardless of how the War is progressing, a continually rising suicide rate is not a pleasant statistic, and it will only heighten the challenges currently deployed soldiers, and soldiers to be must face .The essential problem seems to be that by simply being a solider, these men and women are better equipped to actually commit the act of suicide. They re trained to overcome mental and emotional stress with physical violence, and this while useful in combat, is not an effective way to deal with personal problems.The other common denominator in most of the suicide cases was relationship problems, which, not surprisingly, seems to arise the more times a solider is deployed.Their offered solution is intriguing, but it s effectiveness is diicufflt to gauge, because suicide is such a personal problem. But increasing the dwell time in between deployments so that the stress of combat may subside may be coming in too late to the plan.They talk about not preventing suicide, but at holistically improving the physical, mental, and spiritual health of soldiers so that they can stop suicide from ever becoming a thought.This to me sounds like the most effective plan. I myself have never contemplated suicide, but I have a close friend who has been to the edge of that abyss and taken a long look down. Wondering if it was worth it to jump. I tried helping, and continue to help him, but once he s gotten the idea, it seems it always comes creeping back into his mind like a virus. Waiting for the right time to strike.If he had made different choices in his life, he may not have ended up where he was. But I fear that in his case, and as may be the case with many others, some people are simply more prone to suicide based on their personalities, and that is a terribly diicufflt thing to alter. Certainly we can train ourselves to think positively, but when confronted with the worst, we often revert back to our most basic and natural instincts and feelings. If these soldiers have even had the inkling of thought that suicide might be a possibility, there may be little we can do for them once they are placed in such a serious situation. For these people, the only option I can think of is to forgo the military entirely, but discovering this about yourself is no easy task either. This is certainly a daunting problem, and one I hope these changes will start to improve. But until then, I can only send all my love and positive thoughts to the men and women who fight and die for our country, and hope they will make it through the day.

  4. try this website says:

    I really like your writing style, superb info, thanks for posting :D. “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” by Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.

    • Ulfatun says:

      My son fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom too. His name was SGT Robert T. Ayres, III. He was kielld in Bagdad on September 29, 2007. I read your poem and it broke my heart to learn that you are so unhappy. Robert was kielld trying to protect the men he was in charge of. They came under fire and herded them into a doorway, leaving himself exposed. He was shot in the neck.My baby died.Some of his men wrote to me. They were very sad over Robert’s death. Some of them felt responsible. They felt guilty. One man said he wished he could have died instead of Robert. I wrote back and told them that the last thing Robert would want was for them to be sad or feel guilty because he gave up his life for them. Robert sacrificied his life so that they could live. We use the expression he gave his life .He gave it.His life was a gift. He decided to give this gift to his fellow soldiers. He felt they were worth his sacrifice. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another. He gave his life for them and for me and for YOU. He did this out of the greatest, highest, most unselfish love a man is capable of.You said you’re nothing special. But you’re very special, Wesley. My son gave his life for you.Indulge me in a story, Wesley: What if you had a wonderful wife who knew you always wanted a Mustang to drive? One morning, she wakes you up and hands you a set of keys to your new Mustang and she says This is for you just because I love you. It’s all paid for. It’s not your birthday or Christmas. I’m giving this to you because I know how much you wanted it. You ask her How did you pay for it? And she says I skipped eating lunch all year and I worked through my lunch hour. I sold the jewelry my mother left me and when you weren’t home, I worked overtime and squirreled away every cent. You would be so happy to drive that car. You would take such good care of it because it represented all of her love and effort. Even if she picked the wrong color, it would be the perfect car because she bought it for you.One night, you start to think about how hard she worked and that she didn’t eat lunch for a year. You start to feel badly and you tell her why. Don’t be silly , she says I dropped 20 pounds I was trying to get rid of and now my boss knows I’m a great worker. I benefited from what I did. Don’t spoil my gift by feeling sorry for me. I bought the car so that you would enjoy it. I don’t want anything in return but to see you enjoy the car. The next night, you start to think about the

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